Early Education Programs in Sacred Heart Southern Missions
Sacred Heart School, Walls (1947) – Southaven (1999)
In 1947 Sacred Heart School was built in Walls. It was a three-room school, located behind Sacred Heart Church and built on land donated by the Harris family. Because of post-war shortages, at first the three rooms had no windows, chalkboards or desks. The children sat on chairs they brought from home. Staffed by three School Sisters of St. Francis, Sacred Heart was a school for white children only as Mississippi law demanded segregated schools.
More classrooms were added in 1950 and by 1952 it was clear that a high school was needed. Groundbreaking for Sacred Heart High School took place in 1957. The high school building opened in 1958, providing a new and well-designed learning environment for students who had been going to class in a converted garage since 1954. The first class graduated from Sacred Heart High School in 1959. Because of the large expense involved in operating it, the high school closed in 1966 but the elementary school continued to expand. Five mobile classrooms were added over the next several years.
The first Sacred Heart Southern Missions Summer Program for children living in poverty in Walls, Tunica and the surrounding area began in 1972 and continued into the mid-1990s. 200-300 children were involved each summer in remedial math and reading classes, arts and crafts, athletics, home economics, dressmaking, and music. There were field trips to museums . . . and swimming pools! The children were provided with breakfast, a substantial lunch, and a snack to take home since most greatly missed the hot lunches provided during the school year.
After many years of planning and fundraising, the new, modern Sacred Heart School facility opened in 1999 in Southaven, MS to better serve an integrated population of students from all points of DeSoto County. From its beginning, Sacred Heart School has served both low and middle income families. Today more than 25% of Sacred Heart students qualify for the federal free lunch program.
St. Mary School (1948) – St. Joseph School (1949) – CADET (1969) – CADET Childhood Center (1974) – Holy Family School (1994), Holly Springs
In the days before integration, schools for black children were vastly inferior to those for white children. It was clear to Fr. Frichtl, SCJ, who had replaced Fr. Flanagan in Holly Springs, that a Catholic school for black children was needed. So he bought an abandoned building that had been a large two story home – an old mansion actually – and made repairs to make it usable as a school.
In 1948, St. Mary School opened in Holly Springs. During its first year, there were no sisters available to teach. Fr. Frichtl located a parishioner, James “Fred” Williams, a graduate of Mississippi Industrial College and a World War II veteran, who was willing to be St. Mary’s first teacher. He took his education, experience – and a great deal of faith and courage – and during the 1948-49 school year, taught fifty-five children in eight grades in one room.
The school prospered under his leadership and the following year, four School Sisters of St. Francis arrived to work with him. Enrollment grew to 100 until after cotton-picking season when it jumped to 154. Not a single child was Catholic, but all were eager – and grateful – for the chance to receive an education. The sisters realized that minds could not learn when stomachs were empty or teeth were chattering so providing food and clothes when needed became part of the school’s mission.
A high school was added in 1950, with the first class graduating in 1954. Through those years, many high school students worked in the cotton fields during harvest time and St. Mary High School suspended classes for several weeks in the autumn during cotton harvesting! In 1957 four classrooms were added to St. Mary School.
In 1949 St. Joseph School for white students opened in Holly Springs in a two story wooden house. It was staffed by the School Sisters of St. Francis. In 1964 a new school building replaced the old house.
In 1969, St. Mary and St. Joseph schools in Holly Springs were combined under a new educational philosophy and called CADET (Christian Aided Development Through Extraordinary Training). CADET High School closed that year, ending 25 years of preparing African American teens and young adults for colleges around the country and successful employment beyond the cotton fields.
CADET Child Care Center opened in Holly Springs in 1974 and accepted 25 3 and 4-year old children in a trailer on the school grounds. The CADET child care program in Holly Springs increased in size so greatly that it was necessary to move from the trailer on the school grounds to expanded facilities at the former St. Joseph School.
In 1994 CADET was renamed Holy Family School in recognition of its strong Catholic heritage. Families attending Holy Family continue to struggle economically. More than 95% of Holy Family students qualify for the federal free lunch program.